Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Do Time Lords Have Birthdays?

I always look forward to the arrival of Spring, not so much for the weather change (thaw means more allergies), as for the birthday baking. My pop gets his lemon meringue pie from the Bat, then there are three projects for me to work up: in reverse order, pie for Bat, chocolate decadence for me, and THE PROJECT for my favorite diminutive superhero, Monkey Boy.

Monkey Boy is the son of a non-blood-relative who has been a member of the family for decades, now.  He gets special treatment, just as his older sister, Shining Star, does, because they are close - in terms both of actual proximity and emotional ties.

This year, managing to endear himself even more to me, Monkey Boy has discovered Doctor Who. His grandmother has streamed some of the age-appropriate episodes on her video feed, and Monkey Boy now wants his own sonic screwdriver, among other things.

So, in order to do my part in setting up for proper birthday celebration, I'm running a Doctor-Who-themed party, complete with Daleks and TARDIS and bow ties and fezzes (because fezzes and bow ties are cool!).

To begin with, Monkey Boy's grandmother will be showing an episode of Doctor Who featuring the Daleks (probably "Army of Ghosts" or "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End").

To carry through on the theme, then, I've decorated blue paper cups with white paint pens, to pass for mini TARDISes, converted red SOLO cups to fezzes, and cut construction paper into bow ties for all the partygoers. There is much use of hat elastic string.

Next, the kids will receive bags (one each) with components to build their own Delicious Daleks (more about that, in another blog entry).

Most important of all, the cake is (to the best of my abilities) in the shape of a TARDIS.

 photo IMAG0541_zps662addd5.jpg

The cake is a simple one, your standard white cake with food coloring, and the frosting is a basic "butter cream" variety, also Kool-Aided for fun and flavor. Plus color.

Seriously, all you need for the cake is your favorite white cake recipe or box mix, and pile in the color until the batter is about the color you want. If you want to give it a rainbow effect, once you make the batter, divide it into several bowls (most recipes and mixes will provide you with about 5-6 cups of batter, so you can figure out the divisions) and add in as much coloring as you need. Then, just pour it into a greased, parchment-lined jelly-roll pan and bake 25 minutes or so, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (In my case, I decided to match the cake with the cones I used for the aforementioned Dalek-making project for the kids. The swirl is…well… kind of, sort of wibbly-wobbly timey-warpy.)

 photo IMAG0540_zps8e19f45c.jpg

Allow it to cool completely.

Finishing Frosting 


1/3 cup shortening (I used Crisco, but you can actually use unsalted butter)
4 1/2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/3 cup water (and more, if needed)
About 1/2 package unsweetened Kool-Aid Twists ice-blue raspberry lemonade (to taste)
a whole mess of food coloring (Wilton's gel, purple was my choice)

In a small bowl, mix shortening, half of sugar, Kool-Aid powder, and water at low speed until thoroughly blended. Add remaining sugar gradually, mixing on medium speed until light and fluffy. The frosting will be a very pale baby blue. Glop in at least a teaspoonful of purple coloring gel, mix throughly.

You will want to decide how much more blue you want to add to the frosting, at this point. Just keep in mind, if you are using plastic spatulas, plastic bowls, the food coloring will stain what it touches (fingertips, too!). To get the shade I wanted, I ended up using nearly all the little tub of purple coloring gel, and it still isn't near the official TARDIS blue, but it will serve the purpose.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

DECORATE! DECORATE! Cupcake Cone Daleks

So, Monday afternoon I'm supplying the cake, the extra treats, and the decorations for a party celebrating a monkey-boy's seventh birthday. The event will take place at his grandparents' house, a few blocks from where I live and bake. The activities include watching an episode of Doctor Who and then building cupcake Daleks.

 photo 950c401f-a93a-419c-907e-018d953702c9_zps879f6cd5.jpg

In order for a riot of boys to do something like building an army of alien killer robots

there has to be a lot, A LOT of preparation, or chaos is the only thing they will generate.  After all, we are talking about sticky foods, spatulas, and an enclosed area (forecast is for thunderstorms, so there will likely be no romping in the garden). At any rate, rather than let them do as much damage as the same number of Daleks would, I've assembled the parts ahead of time.

The first stage is to get ice cream cups.

I had wanted to find some chocolate wafer cups (to make all-chocolate Daleks), but, for some reason, nobody in my area had any of them. Dang it, don't people in retail know that chocolate is a necessity, especially in these uncertain times? Well! Instead of leaving in a huff, I bought a box of colored cups, 
 photo 9ee1117d-10e9-4fea-bfe4-2476cc54ffaa_zpse63e9b90.jpg

and l left in a minute and a huff.*

Other than that, almost everything I needed was in stock in my own cupboards. I'm a regular boy scout, I am. 

In case you're not certain what you'll need to have in your kitchen cupboards for a project like this, here is a list of all ingredients:

  • cake batter, either your favorite recipe or a favorite box mix.
  • food coloring
  • simple whipped frosting, either your favorite recipe or from a little tub†
  • little pretzel sticks
  • m&m minis
  • helmets. 

That last one is the hardest to come by. I've considered using chocolate-covered cherries or other straight candy domes, but they all end up looking more square than rounded, so the Dalek doesn't look very… Dalek-y. At last, though, I found, at a Big Lots store, some of these chocolate-dipped marshmallow-topped chocolate cookies
 photo IMAG0534_zps62b1742b.jpg
Which looked a little less dented on the cover of the box,
 photo IMAG0531_zps6d57c1d4.jpg

but I decided I could live with it, and just let the boys pretend our Daleks had just been in a big battle.

Anyway, now to the construction of your invading army. 

The first thing you are going to want to do is to set out your ice cream cups. My box of ice cream cups had eighteen in it, but the recipe I use makes two dozen cupcakes. This is only a problem if you lack ambition. Either put set up some cupcake papers or those silicone cups, or get an eight-inch cake pan or brownie pan, butter it up or line it with parchment, and set it amid your workspace. Then stand your wafer cups up, either on a cookie sheet or each in its own cup of a muffin tin. 

Next, to make the cupcakes, follow your favorite recipe or the instructions on your box mix to make  a basic cake. If you're going with coloring the cakes as I did, stick with a white cake, because you want your colors to come out intense and cheerful. (But feel free to use your favorite chocolate cake. It won't be seen once you build the Dalek.) If adding color to a white cake, once the batter is mixed, divide into as many bowls as you have colors (the standard mix provides about 5 cups of batter, so do your math on that). Add food color until it reaches the desired tint. 

Spoon batter into bottom of wafer cups, until it nearly fills, to just under a centimeter from the top of the cup. When all the cups are filled, pour any remaining batter into the cupcake papers or the small cake pan (it will not be a thick cake).

Bake about 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.  

Allow to cool completely.

Many of these will have domes upon their tops.
 photo IMAG0528_zps6fd415b1.jpg

You do not want this lovely effect, because you are going to invert the cupcakes, so, take a sharp, serrated knife and cut away the extra cake tops so that there is a nice, flat surface. Set the cupcake down on parchment or waxed paper. (The dots you cut away may be saved for a later project or just nibbled the heck out of.)

 photo IMAG0529_zps20de7500.jpg
Once it is on its paper, it is now ready for little hands to mess with it. 

Let them slather frosting around what would have been the base of the cup, but is now its top (this means the sides and the top). Have them stick a helmet on it. Then, it's a matter of setting in rows of those m&m minis (each Dalek will need at least 18 to 24 dots, depending on how tightly the child arranges his rows of dots.

 photo IMAG0535_zps2ab199da.jpg
Then they can dip one end of a pretzel stick into the remaining frosting, attach a weapon arm, break another pretzel in half (or bite a couple of them off so they're the desired length) and dip ends of those pieces into frosting, and attach them so they look, more or less, like this:

 photo IMAG0533_zps06829e28.jpg


*Thank you, Groucho Marx.

†I made a several batches of white "buttercream" frosting, combining 1/3 cup water (plus a little extra as needed), 1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco), and 4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, then added most of a packet of unsweetened Kool-Aid plus matching food coloring to make some frosting for the party. It's tart and tangy and probably not for adult taste buds. But I love the stuff. The Demonstration Dalek, though, is, as you can see, made from pre-fab frosting.